Dwane Powell – RIP

(updated with the family’s loving obituary)

Editorial cartoonist Dwane Powell has passed away.

Drexal Dwane Powell, Jr.
November 7, 1944 – April 14, 2019

Dwane’s papers are at the University of North Carolina, their biographical note:

Drexel Dwane Powell Jr., an editorial cartoonist, was born 7 November 1944 in Lake Village, Arkansas. He began drawing editorial cartoons while in high school. After graduating from the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 1969, he was hired as a political cartoonist at the Hot Springs Sentinel Record (1970-1972). He later moved on to the San Antonio Light (1973-1974), then the Cincinnati Enquirer (1974-1975), and finally to the Raleigh News and Observer. Powell retired in 2009, but returned to drawing editorial cartoons in 2013. He has won the Overseas Press Club award for Excellence in Cartooning, the national Headliners Club award for Outstanding Editorial Cartoons,the Plott Hound Award, and the Raleigh Medal of Arts Award. In 2013 he was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame. Four collections of his work have been published: Is That All You Do? (1979), Surely SOMEONE Can Still Sing Bass! (1981), The Reagan Chronicles (1987), and One Hundred Per Cent Pure Old Jess (1993).


The Raleigh News and Observer ran a fond remembrance of Dwane today.

“His early work was influenced by MAD Magazine cartoons,” said Mike Keefe, an editorial cartoonist who had a similarly long career at the Denver Post and lives now in Mexico. “There would be just this crazy stuff going on: birds on heads and construction equipment with human feet. Just things that came out of Dwane’s head. Nobody else did anything like it. He just had a real zany approach.

From the start, Powell was admired for his caricatures, which came from his ability to exploit a physical trait about someone that everyone else took for granted. Once he pointed it out, the feature became the person’s editorial-page identity and could have served as a stand-in for them all by itself. Helms’ giant glasses and googly eyes. Jim Hunt’s pompadour with a comb surfing its waves. Barack Obama’s satellite-dish sized ears. Donald Trump’s lemon-yellow comb-over jutting from his head like a spear.



About two years ago the local magazine Walter worked up a wonderful piece on Dwane.

You know Powell’s work. With a sense of humor more absurd than malicious, and a drawing style that includes immediately recognizable caricatures, imaginative scenarios, madcap details, and a laser-like ability to cut to the heart of a matter metaphorically, his cartoons are hard to miss. From Gov. Jim Hunt to Rev. Billy Graham, from Gov. Pat McCrory and the current Republican-led legislature, Powell has taken on those in power, and he’s skewered issues of all kinds. He has a reputation for tilting left politically, but he’ll tell you his goal is broader: “to keep elected officials on notice.”





The family/funeral home obituary was published in The News & Observer on Apr. 17, 2019:


Drexel Dwane Powell, Jr., 74, devoted husband, father, grandfather, uncle and much-loved friend to those who knew him in a nearly 50-year newspaper career or through music and friendship, passed away peacefully April 14, 2019 after a hard fought battle with cancer

He was a gentle soul, merry in his outlook on life, devoted to his family, loyal to his friends and courageous through his final day.

“Those who knew him” is a phrase that, in Dwane’s case, included literally hundreds of thousands of people. That was, in part, thanks to his 35 years as the editorial cartoonist at The News & Observer…Throughout his career, Dwane was an influential and beloved mentor to many with creative pursuits. He so enjoyed sharing his passion by encouraging individuality and recognition through the arts.

Dwane’s friends count his caricatures of them among their most prized possessions. He would doodle them at parties, and once, in a tony Raleigh restaurant, covered a linen tablecloth with drawings of his companions. “You know,” said the waiter, “you really might make some money at that.”

But there was much more to Dwane than his remarkable career. He had an exceptional talent for photography…He was an accomplished guitar player, and was also quite adept on several other instruments. He sang and wrote many songs over the years, some in collaboration with his closest friends. One of the greatest joys of Dwane’s life was creating music and sharing that together with his daughter, Devon.

His gentle, kind, upbeat and loving disposition will be intensely missed by all who were blessed to know him.

In honor of Dwane, we encourage you to find an adventure in each day, to live with passion and stay connected to what brings you joy. This is how Dwane lived and it inspires us to do the same.

There will be a visitation and celebration of life, open to the public, at the City of Raleigh Museum on Friday, April 19 from 4:30-6:30pm with time for prepared remarks from anyone who would like to share at 6pm. There will be a separate, private gathering by invitation at a later date.


APRIL 19 UPDATE from JAN (via AAEC):

ANNOUNCEMENT: Due to the inclement weather, we are looking at rescheduling the visitation/memorial for . We will now have it tomorrow, Saturday, 4/20 at 4:30-6:30pm at the same place, the City of Raleigh Museum on Fayetteville Street.



There have been many written tributes to Dwane from fellow cartoonists and friends,
and a few drawn eulogies. I really liked the one below by Kevin Siers.






5 thoughts on “Dwane Powell – RIP

  1. I could post a dozen dozen stories about my friend Dwane Powell, and probably will throughout the day, but the one thing I’ll always remember is his gentle encouragement. We’d be chatting about the news or something and I’d make a smartass crack — and Dwane would say “Pen to paper, JP, pen to paper!”

    Thanks, buddy. Rest in peace.

  2. Just heard, So sorry to hear about Dwane . He was a great cartoonist, talented, funny , fierce debater and a friend.Our love goes out to Jan and the family, He was blessed having them in his life. Love you guys, Mike and Marian

  3. APRIL 19 UPDATE from JAN POWELL (via AAEC):

    ANNOUNCEMENT: Due to the inclement weather, we are looking at rescheduling the visitation/memorial for @DwanePowell. We will now have it tomorrow, Saturday, 4/20 at 4:30-6:30pm at the same place, the City of Raleigh Museum on Fayetteville Street.

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